Best Food Dehydrators
The best food dehydrator is really only the best if it is best for you. For instance, if you don’t have a lot of counter space the best food dehydrator will be compact but still efficient (like #3 on our list). If you want to make beef jerky, the best food dehydrator is most likely the Excalibur food dehydrator (though any food dehydrator will work). If you like making banana chips and dried fruits, the best food dehydrator might be #5 on our list.
In the end, the best food dehydrator is dependent on one thing and one thing only, you. How you plan on using the food dehydrator, the amount of space you have, and the level of convenience you desire. To be fair, all of the food dehydrators on this list are excellent, so you could throw a dart and pick the best food dehydrator. However, it is best to pick the one that will best suit you.
Food Dehydrators: A Very Short History
In days gone by, they called canning “putting food by.” Preserving food at the time of harvest for consumption later is as old as, well, food. Emphasis on preserving food got some renewed attention when the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 led to empty grocery store shelves across the world. Going forward, putting food by may become the new normal in households everywhere.
Today, we have a host of different ways to preserve food, among them drying food and storing it in moisture-resistant containers. In arid parts of the U.S., people can air dry their food items in the abundant sunshine and pack them in moisture-proof containers. The rest of us need a little more help.
So, whether you’re drying food out of necessity, as snack food, out of curiosity or out of desire to do something that’s trendy and cool, then read on. You may have looked at other “best food dehydrator” reviews, but check out our best food dehydrator review before clicking the order button.
Best Food Dehydrators Ranked
We’ll start with our favorite – The Excalibur Dehydrator. Excalibur makes several models, with the primary difference being the number of trays it holds. We’re recommending the four-tray model for the average household, but you can get them all the way up to 10 trays, which is more like what you would find on a commercial food dehydrator.
The rest of the list is not in any particular order. All of the items received a minimum of four stars out of five from Amazon customers. Some are suitable for commercial dehydrator use, while some, like the Nesco dehydrator, are for occasional, one-item-at-a-time use.
So off we go! Let’s dry some cherry tomatoes!
Top 9 Best Food Dehydrators
1. Excalibur 2400 Electric Food Dehydrator – Overall Best Food Dehydrator
Best Feature: Even Airflow for All Trays
What does that guy on TV say all the time? All together now: “Set it and forget it!”
The Excalibur 2400 comes as close to fulfilling that promise as any food dehydrator on our list. All you do is load the trays, set the temperature and walk away. The dehydrator is engineered to allow even airflow across all the trays so that different types of food can dry at the same time.
Assuming you’re a first-time user (we think that fits nearly all of you), this is the perfect starter kit. But that doesn’t mean the same as “entry level.” This can be your first, last and only food dehydrator.
Each tray measures approximately one square foot, so if you load all four trays, you have four square feet of total drying space. You can set the thermostat for any temperature between 95° and 165°, which pretty much covers the needs for drying everything from herbs, fruits, veggies, meats, raising bread dough and making jerky.
This qualifies as the best beef jerky food dehydrator, meaning it achieves a high enough temperature to safely dry raw beef and other meats. This is an important feature. Not all of the food dehydrators on our list qualify.
The Excalibur’s thermostat and heating element operate differently from conventional appliances that generate heat, and differently than many of the other dehydrators on our list. They call it “Hyperwave Fluctuation Technology,” a fancy term for variable heat, rather than an all-on, all-off process. With this system, the temperature stays low enough to keep food enzymes active, yet high enough to dry the food items and prevent spoilage or the formation of mold.
While drying food is a homespun, wholesome, old-school-approved process, it can still have some high-tech applications, like the aforementioned Hyperwave Fluctuation Technology, which sounds a lot like flux capacitor technology (a fictional concept from Back to the Future).
Next up for discussion is Excalibur’s “Parallex Horizontal Airflow.” Nerdy, but it’s important. This process directs the airflow evenly throughout the interior of the dehydrator. Cool air is pulled in through the back of the unit and brought to the selected temperature before being distributed evenly to all the layers.
The drying temperature can be selected by the dial at the front, and the unit will maintain it, allowing a bit of fluctuation as needed to keep food from hardening on the exterior (called case hardening.) You can set the dehydrator on a timer with a maximum range of 26 hours.
The product literature lists a variety of uses for the Excalibur 2400, and not all of them are for food. You can dry fresh-cut flowers for a dried flower arrangement or fragrant spices for a pleasant potpourri mix. There are arts & craft applications for this unit and they can come to the rescue of you spill water on your irreplaceable photograph of you and Dolly Parton at the 1972 county fair. (Just go with low heat on that one.)
Overall, the Excalibur food dehydrator is the best food dehydrator on the market for 2020. Although it has some stiff competition with some of the food dehydrators below, it still ranks on the top of the list.
Best Features: Stainless Steel Construction; BPA-Free Trays
Thanks to the Cosori food dehydrator’s brilliant stainless steel exterior that gleams, visitors to your kitchen can go from “What’s that contraption?” to “That’s pretty. What is it?”
Looks aren’t everything, but they are something, and when it’s your kitchen, you want the best; not only the best food dehydrator in terms of operation, but the best-looking food dehydrator. So score 10 points for the way the Cosori Six-Tray Food Dehydrator looks on your kitchen counter. Food-grade stainless steel – just about the highest grade of stainless steel there is – ensures that this dehydrator will look brand new for years to come.
If you choose to leave it out on the counter, and why wouldn’t you, considering how nice it looks, you need to know that it measures 13 inches across and 17 inches deep. Maybe you could move that clanky toaster oven to storage (or to the landfill) to make room for this beauty.
There are no rotary dials or flip switches under which dirt and grime can accumulate, so keeping it clean from everyday kitchen grunge is easy. All the buttons are digital and intuitive, but frankly, there aren’t that many buttons to begin with. In a realm beset with convenient options that create inconvenience because you have to choose between options you don’t understand, this is definitely a “less is more” feature.
The digital control panel allows the user to set the timer up to 48 hours in 30-minute increments plus set the temperature from 95° to 165°. Beyond that, it’s just a waiting game.
I’m not sure if noisy food dehydrators are the bane of any homemaker’s existence, but this one brags about being quiet. According to product literature, the Cosori food dehydrator operates at 48dB, which is similar to the noise in a library. Shhh!
The Cosori will never be a huge contributor to your household energy bill, but at 600 watts and the fact that it may be on for two days at a time, the power consumption is still a consideration. Scheduling its operation only for times when you can fill up all or most of the trays will minimize its impact to the utility bill.
It holds six trays, each measuring roughly 12 inches square. You can arrange up to five pounds of food on the mesh BPA-free tray liners. The mesh openings are small, so you don’t have to worry about small items falling through. The trays and liners are removeable and dishwasher safe. If you need additional trays, you can order directly from the manufacturer.
The design and placement of the heating element and fan motor ensures that each tray is heated evenly, so drying different foods at the same time is feasible.
As a nice bonus, Cosori is throwing in a booklet containing 50 recipes for dehydrating food. This should come as a welcome addition to the first-time user, and even the seasoned pro who may have been missing out on some delicious possibilities.
The Cosori food dehydrator is right up there with the Excalibur when it comes to the best food dehydrator on the market this year. Although it doesn’t quite get there only due to the minor issue of energy consumption. But all in all, one of the best food dehydrators nonetheless.
Best Feature: Seven Tray Capacity with Compact Overall Size
One of the best food dehyrators, there’s no wasted space with the Magic Mill food dehydrator. It doesn’t take up much counter space, or storage space if you choose to put it away when you’re not using it. Yet the drying trays are 13×12 inches, and you can stack seven of them for nearly eight square feet of drying capacity.
When you have a lot of food in there that’s been chopped, cleaned, sliced, diced or seasoned just right, you don’t want some of it to get overdone. While it’s always best to dry similar foods at the same time, it doesn’t always work out that way. No worries with the Magic Mill food dehydrator. Its rear-mounted fan and circulating system ensures that each layer gets the same treatment, and the food comes out to perfection.
The digital control panel is easy to use, not just when you start a batch, but as the drying process is underway. The readout keeps you up to date with the current temperature inside the unit (It’s not going to be the exact temperature the whole time. It fluctuates to keep items from getting crispy on the outside and still undone on the inside.)
It also has a countdown timer that lets you know when you can open the door, and automatic shut-off. And if you’re not quite ready to unload the dehydrator, it has an option to keep everything warm until you are. You can set the timer for up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments and make adjustments mid-process.
The trays and mesh covers are adjustable, to provide the perfect distance between the food and the drip tray underneath. This is important for particularly watery fruits, so that the moisture doesn’t drip down, evaporate and go right back into the fruit. The adjustable trays and liners, along with the regulated heat circulation, makes combining dissimilar foods easy.
Everything is dishwasher safe, which keeps your dried banana slices from tasting oddly like venison jerky (assuming you’re diligent in washing the trays). They’re all BPA-free.
On the odd chance that the unit overheats, it has overload protection to shut the unit off. While this may delay or even ruin the batch inside, it beats the heck out of a kitchen fire.
One of the best food dehydrators if you’re looking for a lot of power in a compact size. Dehydrates well and takes up very little counter space.
Dried Fruit Snacks are Better for You Than Processed Snacks
(But Not in the Way You Might Think)
It’s a no-brainer that dried fruits are better for you than a bag of potato chips or those elf-baked butter cookies, but the benefits come to you in a round-about way. If you’re thinking in terms of calorie consumption, you may be in for a surprise.
Dried fruits are high in calories and sugars. By the time excess moisture is removed from a slice of fruit, and the skin shrivels up to a fraction of its former size, you’re left with an extremely dense chunk of fructose (sugar) and calories. But fret not; the benefits derived from dried fruit make the expense of the calories worth it, because your body is more satisfied, and processes what’s been consumed more efficiently.
Those benefits include:
- Increased feeling of fullness.
- Decrease in inflammatory markers and blood cholesterol.
- Typically do not cause spikes in blood sugars or insulin levels.
- Great source of antioxidants.
- Some fruits contain high levels of boron, which helps maintain bone mass.
The key is not consuming dried fruit as comfort food and ingesting massive amounts in one setting. All things in moderation.
Best Feature: 11-Tray Capacity
This unit should be listed as a prosumer grade item at least. If you like to do a lot of food drying – perhaps you have a big garden or a lot of fruit trees – then the Tribest Sedona Express may be the one for you. It’s a substantial investment, but if you have the need, then this is a good value that should pay for itself over time.
There is an impressive control panel on top with quite a few settings. It puts lesser food dehydrators to shame with the number of settings it has. The temperature settings range from 77° to 167°, the latter in compliance with USDA guidelines for beef jerky. Precooking the meat beforehand is not necessary. The switches are rotary, in that they turn like a dial, but they are digital in their response. You have the option to select from preset modes or perform a manual setting, which can be saved for future use. A digital LED readout keeps you informed of the status of the process, and gives you a countdown to the final stages of the drying operation.
Many of the food dehydrators on our list feature temperature regulation that allows “rest” time for the items on the trays. In other words, it’s not a constant blast of the same temperature air non-stop. They all have their names for the technology, and the methods of regulation differ. For the Sedona Express, it’s called Two-Stage Sequential Temperature Timer (TST – their acronym, not mine).
The Two-Stage Sequential Temperature Timer allows for a fast start-up to the drying process at a higher temperature and then automatically steps down the temperature as the process approaches the final phase. This helps avoid “the crunch” of over-dried exteriors and preserves the food enzymes, nutrients and flavor.
The timer goes all the way to 99 hours, which is way more than most of the dehydrators on our list. This allows for a slower dry-out and the more consistent results than faster methods. Of course, the drawback to taking 99 hours to dehydrate food is that it takes 99 hours. The beauty of the Sedona Express is that it can produce satisfactory results regardless of how long the time is set for.
This model will hold 11 trays, providing a shade less than 10 square feet of drying space. The trays and the mesh tray liners are BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
While the hinged glass door is easy to open, don’t, at least while food is inside dying out. As with an oven with the Thanksgiving turkey inside, every minute with the door open is that much longer it will take until the food is done. For the impatient, or merely curious, Sedona has put an LED light inside the dehydrator, so you can check on the food items without opening the door.
I’d bet the farm that you won’t need to use it, but this unit comes with a really nice warranty. How does 10 years sound? They say it’s the longest in the industry, and who’s to doubt it? And you should never look at a warranty as a deadline to get your money back if the product turns out to be a lemon. You should consider it as an estimation of useful life. The manufacturer is confident that the unit will hold up at least that long (and with care, it should last even longer).
Best Feature: Meets USDA Standards as “Jerky Safe”
Making beef jerky sounds like an easy, satisfying pastime. But hold the phone. Not so fast, says the USDA. Doing it wrong can be serious; even deadly. Here’s what the national food rulers have to say about that:
“Illnesses due to salmonella and E.coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky raise concerns about the safety of traditional drying methods.” 1
The USDA actually recommends against using a food dehydrator solely when preparing jerky. They recommend precooking the meat in an oven until it reaches a temperature of 165°. But the recommendations allow use of a food dehydrator if it can reliably reach and maintain a temperature of 165°. That is where the STX Dehydra comes in. It can reach – and maintain – a temperature of 165° consistently.
Other models can reach the 165° plateau, but with temperature control technology that allows for a considerable about of fluctuation, the optimum temperature is not maintained. They might have 165° on their dials and buttons, but fall short of ever reaching that temperature, except for occasional spikes. For our money, this is the best jerky dehydrator on our list.
This ranks as a commercial food dehydrator, but its price puts it in the range of the average person who maybe has a commercial-sized need. Its durable stainless steel housing can take a lot of bangs and punches, and its 10-tray capacity means this can handle large quantities of food items and is ready for reloading as soon as the first batch is done.
The horizontal, rear-to-front airflow supplies hot air to all 10 racks evenly, and a stainless steel drip tray catches the runoff. The drying racks are 16.5 x 14.5 inches, providing space for vast quantities of food items.
Most of the dehydrators on our list have programmable timers, with increments of 30 minutes. The STX Dehydra has a 15-hour timer with five-minute increments, so if you determine the exact time for a perfect batch, you can be more precise with your settings.
As we mentioned, this is a commercial grade food dehydrator with 1200 watts of power and should be treated with the utmost respect. While the 165° maximum temperature may not sound too intimating, the ability to sustain that temperature for an infinite amount of time makes this a fire hazard if not used properly. This requires 12 inches of clearance from the wall for proper air circulation.
It has overheat protection, but that is no substitute for proper use, storage and set-up.
A nice extra that ships with this product is the 126-page (digital) STX Dehydrating Made Easy Cookbook, including over 270 dehydrating recipes. The data is burned onto a CD in PDF format, plus it’s available from the STX website.
Some of the recipes sound delightful:
- Strawberry banana crackers
- Basil, garlic and cashew cheese
- Lemon pecan banana chips
- Peach and banana fruit leather
- Spicy orange Teriyaki marinade
- Apple oatmeal granola
1 USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 2016, Jerky and Food Safety
Best Feature: It Folds Up to 1/3 Its Size
You didn’t know you wanted a folding food dehydrator, did you? On your list of features you want in a food dehydrator, “must be foldable” probably wasn’t written down.
Well, welcome to the Brod & Taylor folding food dehydrator. It folds up to 1/3 its original size in seconds. Why would you want that? If you don’t use your food hydrator on a regular basis, the designers at Brod & Taylor figured it would be nice if you could fold it up like an accordion and store it somewhere out of the way.
When open, this model stands 22 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 11 inches tall. Folded, it’s only 3 3/4 inches tall. In the off-season, or just when you’re caught up, this model won’t take up any more room than one of Mom’s Betty Crocker three-ring binder cookbooks.
The Sahara (good name for a dehydrator) holds seven drying racks that add up to a total of 11 square feet of space for all kinds of food items. Instead of one heater, it has two, each of them rated at 700 watts. The dual automated time / temperature controls allows you to start your drying process with a fairly high temperature to kick start the evaporation, but then it automatically lowers the heat for a more controlled finish. They can be programmed totally independently of one another, and “daisy-chained” for one to start when the other finishes.
I’m not sure why you would want to take this long to dehydrate something, but using the two timers in this manner, you can let the unit run for up to 199 hours. Actually, the dual-control concept allows different food items to be put in the dehydrator at the same time, but retrieved at different times.
Incoming air is filtered to be free of dust and allergens, and the drying racks are high grade stainless steel and not chrome plated, which tends to chip and tarnish more readily. Despite its fold-up capability, the Sahara is constructed with durable materials and engineered with reinforced swivel points so that it can be folded and unfolded countless times without a snag.
“Snack-Level” Food Dehydrators
You might not need a six, seven, nine or 10-tray food dehydrator with fancy-schmancy programmable timers and thermostats. Perhaps you only have a few homegrown peppers to dry, or some onions, kiwi chips, zucchini, squash (hey, everybody plants too much squash) or cherries you picked up at the farmer’s market. Once that task is done, you might not need the dehydrator again for weeks or even months.
The following items are simple, inexpensive countertop dehydrators that don’t claim to be the end-all and beat-all of food dehydrators, but they still do a wonderful job of dehydrating food. We’ll start with our favorite – the Nesco FD75A.
Best Feature: Expandable to 12 Trays
It looks like a Crockpot, but it’s not. It’s a marvelously compact food dehydrator that quietly does its job while you’re packing ground beef into the meatloaf pan.
The Snackmaster is small, but it packs a wallop, with 600 watts of force-fed (top-down) heat to five trays that are 13 1/2 inches in diameter. That’s with the base unit. You can add up to seven more trays for a total of 12, so while it’s small and portable its drying capacity rivals the big boys.
The unit seals tightly, because the heat transfer is pressurized, increasing its drying potential. The air spins down from the top and then spirals outward for even heating on all of the trays.
The temperature control has seven presets, ranging from 95° to 160°. It doesn’t have the type of programming that allows for a gradual step-down of temperature, but the sealed environment helps prevent over-drying.
The drying trays are plastic, but it’s BPA-free, food-grade plastic and therefor mostly worry-free. They’re dishwasher safe and warp-resistant. The exterior is heavy duty plastic with lock-tite seal tabs and a sturdy handle. The Snackmaster ships with a recipe booklet that is compatible with the unit, offering tips, techniques and delicious recipes.
Best Feature: 180° Maximum Temperature
Don’t let the demure size and the pretty exterior fool you. This bad girl can light a torch.
With a maximum temperature setting of 180° the NutriChef can dry beef jerky without preheating the meat in the oven. There are a lot of more expensive food dehydrators that can’t say that.
It comes with five stackable food trays that are high grade plastic and dishwasher safe. Airflow through the unit is even and efficient, drying food and shrinking it without leaching out flavor, enzymes or minerals.
Even novices can operate this unit. If you can push an on-off rocker switch, you can operate this unit. There isn’t a temperature control or timer, which can be a good thing or bad – good, if you just want to stack food on the trays and not worry about the best setting to use; bad if you need something that shuts off automatically or alerts you that the food is ready.
9. Presto Dehydra Food Dehydrator
Best Feature: Very Inexpensive
OK. If I show you a food dehydrator that’s under 50 bucks and still does a decent job of dehydrating food, would you be interested?
Ta-da! Presto! Presenting the Presto 06300 Food Dehydrator. It’s an Amazon Choice for food dehydrators and it indeed does a bang-up job of drying food items. Now, all fancy extras are missing with this – even the on-off switch – but you still get great results for a wide variety of food items.
To operate the unit, put food on the four stackable trays and plug it in. That’s it. You’ll have to monitor the progress of the food being dried, which is easy because the cover is transparent, and if you do beef or venison jerky, you’ll need to precook it in the oven, but for most food items, it is da bomb.
If four trays aren’t enough, you can buy more trays, up to eight. The unit runs at a constant temperature of around 160° and the airflow is even throughout all the trays, even at maximum load.
More About Food Dehydrators
How Does a Food Dehydrator Work?
A food dehydrator works like a low-heat toaster oven, slowly removing the moisture from food items by means of moving hot air. An electric heating element, usually located at the rear of the unit, glows with heat and a fan forces it through the dehydrator.
The food items are suspended on mesh racks or trays so that air can circulate around the items on all four sides. Depending on the make and model of the food dehydrator, the heat is regulated so that it is applied evenly to all the racks.
On moderate to higher-priced food dehydrators, the temperature is allowed to fluctuate, Typically, high heat is applied in the first few hours of the drying process to get the water molecules moving. However, this tends to have an accelerating effect and can lead to over-drying of the outer skin of the food items, so the more sophisticated models convert to lower heat levels to slow down the process.
If you have a wide variety of foods to dry, and if some of them tend to have fragile skins or cases, a unit that has this temperature step-down technology.
Food Dehydrator Timers and Temperature Controls
Timers are very convenient, allowing the user to set a temperature and duration of the process. She can then relax, knowing that the food dehydrator will shut off when the time has expired. Some models have timers that can be set for up to 99 hours.
The temperature controls can be fixed or variable, and the setting is the target temperature, not necessarily the temperature it will focus on for the duration of the dehydration process, due to the “step-down” technology of the higher-priced food dehydrators. The inexpensive models have few options on temperature control, but are engineered so that they still do an amazing job of drying food items.
For users who don’t mind checking on the dehydrator’s progress, an inexpensive model might be the best choice. For those who need reminders and automatic cut-off, paying the extra money for a model that does these things would be money well spent.
Food dehydrator manufacturers seem to be trying to outdo one another on capacity. Some can handle up to 12 trays at once. This is practically in the professional range, and most homeowners would be hard-pressed to fill the unit up often enough to make it worthwhile.
For most, a four to six-tray system would be adequate.
How to Dehydrate Food Without a Dehydrator
The quick answer is don’t. You’d be burning a lot of electricity and running the risk of over-dried or under-cooked food (as in the case of jerky).
But many have had some degree of success using these methods:
- Using an oven
- Using a toaster oven
- Using a microwave oven
- Sun drying (in hot dry, southwest climates)
Experiment with small batches and vary your methods until you get the results you desire.
Why it’s Not Good to do it Without a Dehydrator
Other than spotty results you can end up with food that will make you sick if you attempt to dry foods by other than accepted methods. The USDA has strict guidelines regarding the prep and dehydration of beef for beef jerky. The beef must be cooked to a temperature of at least 165° to rid the meat of salmonella and E.coli bacteria, and most non-dehydrator methods don’t even come close to that temperature (in fact, many of the dehydrators fall short of that number).
And lastly… a few recipes…
Best Food Dehydrator Recipes
How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator
*This must be done with a dehydrator capable of raising the temperature OF THE MEAT to 165° F.
Cut flank steak, bottom round, top round, eye of round or sirloin into strips that will lay flat on your drying racks. Trim away as much fat as possible. If you make a lot of jerky, you might want to invest in a jerky slicer.
Soak in marinade for six to 24 hours. Recipes for marinade vary, but here’s a good one:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke™
- 1 teaspoon pepper sauce, like Tabasco™
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Drain excess moisture. Place on dehydrator racks and turn dehydrator on to its hottest setting for the first part of the process. For the last hour or so, you may reduce the temperature to prevent scorching. Drying time varies, but five to six hours is average.
How to Make Banana Chips in a Food Dehydrator
Slice bananas into thin slices and place them on the drying racks. You may apply coconut oil to the slices for a more tropical flavor, but the oil is not needed for the drying process.
Turn the thermostat on the dehydrator to 135° and let them dry for up to eight hours. You may want to test the chips over the last two hours to make sure they’re achieving the texture you want.
How to Make Dehydrated Sweet Potato Chips
To get slices thin enough so that they dry at the same time, you might want to invest in a good mandoline slicer.
For seasoning, you can season with coconut oil and / or sea salt, or cinnamon. Simply toss the sweet potato slices in a bowl with the seasonings and stir them around.
Set the slices on a drying rack in a single layer, not touching one another. Turn the dehydrator to 125° and let the slices dry for 12-20 hours. Check for desired crispness.
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